Holiday Fruitcake

Posted by: Ian Beyer  :  Category: dessert, holiday

Fruitcake has gotten a bad rap in our culture, mostly because of inconsiderate jerks gifting some strange industrial bakery concoction that is labeled as “fruitcake” and contains neither fruit, nor is anything a rational persion would consider “cake”.

This stuff is different. The key to a good fruitcake is, unsurprisingly, good fruit. If it’s that candied stuff with food dye in it, forget it. That’s about as fruity as Kool-Aid. For this recipe to shine, use good dried fruits. Good sources for this are places like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Natural Grocers, and their ilk. If you get candied tropical fruits like papaya and mango, make sure they’re devoid of junk like food dyes, corn syrup, and other gross stuff.

This is an imprecise process, strict adherence to the recipe is discouraged. Fruitcake is meant to adapt to whatever you have on hand. This particular recipe has been heavily adapted and improved from a recipe found in a 1980 Better Homes and Gardens cookbook  that called for weird-colored fruit.


  • 1 lb all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Approximately 3 pounds of some combination of these:
  • dark raisins
  • golden raisins
  • dried blueberries
  • Craisins
  • papaya (dried or candied)
  • dried mango
  • pineapple (dried or candied)
  • currants
  • dried cherries
  • dates
and 1 pound of nuts, such as:
  • slivered almonds
  • pecan halves
  • walnuts (we omit walnuts due to allergies)

In a bowl, stir together all of the dry ingredients, then fruit and nuts, and mix until everything is well coated.


  • 4 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 3/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup molasses

Beat eggs until foamy and gradually add brown sugar. Add orange juice, butter, and molasses and beat until blended. Stir the wet mixture into the fruit mixture. When making a large batch, this is best done by getting your hands good and messy. Scoop into greased loaf pans (you can also line with greased parchment paper) until they’re about 3/4 full.

Bake at 300F for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (longer for larger loaf pans, less for mini loaf pans) until cakes test done. After cooling, wrap in cheesecloth soaked in liquor or fruit juice (orange juice works well) and then wrap in foil.

When we make it, we usually do a triple batch, which makes 4 bread pans and 2 large bread pans, or 18 2″x6″ mini-loaf pans and 4 4″x8″ medium loaf pans (when using mini loaf pans, bake for 30-45 min under foil to prevent burning)

A triple batch requires about 2 square yards of cheesecloth and a fifth (750ml) of soaking liquor.

Golden Ratio, Golden Bread

Posted by: Ian Beyer  :  Category: Uncategorized

In his book Ratio, Michael Ruhlman explains the ratios behind many basic elements of cuisine. When detailing bread, he explains that bread consists of a flour:liquid ratio of 5:3 (1.66). (Ruhlman also explains that cooking ratios are always done by weight.) This is a good rule of thumb that is pretty easy to remember. After some experimenting, I’ve found that I actually get better results if my flour:liquid ratio is closer to the golden ratio (1.618). This is not surprising, as this ratio is found throughout nature.

Here’s how it breaks down, to make a single loaf around 1.5 lb:

1 lb flour (any combination of bread flour, whole wheat, rye, you name it. At least half should be a good high-gluten flour)

7 oz liquid (can be milk, water, whey, beer, or any combination thereof. Get creative and experiment here. )

1 beaten egg (just under 2 oz.)

1 oz. fat (oil, butter, etc – solid fats should be very soft or melted)

For each 1.5 lb loaf, add the following, dissolved in the liquid which has been heated to around 40 degrees C (100 degrees F). Do this before adding the egg and the fat.

1/2 tablespoon yeast

1/2 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon sweetener (honey, sugar, molasses – do not use zero-calorie sweeteners, this is to feed the yeast, not you)

Knead the whole thing for about 10-15 minutes, rise until doubled, punch down, shape, rise again,  bake for half an hour at 350F.


Easy Caesar Dressing

Posted by: Ian Beyer  :  Category: salad

Photo: flickr/pointnshoot

Whipped up this easy and tasty caesar dressing the other day. It’s best if you let it sit and mellow for a day or two, but it’s perfectly good right away.

Whisk together:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon Nam Pla (thai fish sauce)
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder (or 1 clove crushed fresh garlic)

If you want a milder garlic taste, use roasted garlic instead.

Pour over coarsely chopped Romaine lettuce, add black pepper, parmesan cheese and croutons. Repeat as necessary.

Easy Challah

Posted by: Ian Beyer  :  Category: breads

An adaptation and amalgamation of a number of recipes I found.

This recipe makes 3 loaves or rounds, and is sized for a 5.5-quart stand mixer – if your mixer motor is under 350W, you may want to scale this down a bit. The key is to have a liquid:flour ratio of about 3:5 (by weight)

  1. Mix the following wet ingredients together in a bowl or other large measuring vessel:
    • 1 lb warm water (2 cups)
    • 4 oz. honey (1/2 cup)
    • 1.5 Tablespoons dry yeast
    • 1 Tablespoon salt
    • 3 eggs (beat into mixture)
    • 4 oz. oil (canola or olive)
  2. In the stand mixer bowl, put in:
    • 2.6 pounds bread flour (approx. 8 cups)
    • Liquid mixture
  3. Mix on low speed with a dough hook until ingredients are combined, and then let knead for about 10 minutes.
  4. Let the dough rise in the mixer bowl, covered with a cloth, for about 2 hours.
  5. punch down the dough and knead by hand for about 3-4 minutes, adding flour as needed.
  6. Divide the dough and knead each piece for another minute or so and form into rounds or loaves.
  7. Let rise for another 45 minutes.
  8. If you wish, brush on an egg wash (beat 1 egg with a tablespoon of water) for a golden brown crust.
  9. Bake at 325F for 30 minutes.
This bread makes absolutely epic grilled cheese sandwiches and french toast. You can also use this recipe for dinner rolls or hamburger buns.



Yum Neua (Thai Beef Salad)

Posted by: Site Administrator  :  Category: Entrees, salad

This is one of my favorite Thai summer dishes. It’s refreshing, filling, and delicious.

Take thinly sliced strips of beef and marinate in sea salt and lime juice for about an hour. Saute until cooked medium (this won’t take more than a minute or two), and then marinate in the fridge in the following dressing until chilled


Equal parts (roughly 1 tablespoon per serving) of:

  • Lime juice
  • Palm Sugar (I shred mine from a cake with a cheese grater)
  • Nam Pla (fish sauce)
  • Soy Sauce

Shake well and add:

  • crushed garlic (about 1 clove per 2 servings)
  • a chopped green onion
  • a few sprigs of mint, chopped
  • a few sprigs of cilantro, chopped

Shake again and marinate the meat.

Serve (with dressing) over top of your favorite salad ingredients, with crumbled feta and drizzled with some sweet chili sauce.


Spring Potato Salad

Posted by: Site Administrator  :  Category: salad

It’s springtime, so it’s time for fingerling potatoes and green onions, both of which make for a tasty and healthy potato salad!

Boil up 2 lbs fingerling potatoes (cut into bite-sized chunks) for about 10 minutes, drain, and soak in cool water.

Chop up:

  • 4 green onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • a few sprigs of fresh parsley

Add 1/3 cup cider or wine vinegar and 1/3 cup olive oil and toss with the chopped stuff. Salt and pepper to taste (this will take more salt than you think it will)

You can eat this immediately, or let it sit in the fridge for about a day to allow the flavors to blend nicely.


Easter Egg Salad

Posted by: Site Administrator  :  Category: salad

It’s after Easter, so the fridge is probably full of leftovers. For lunch today, I made myself a lovely salad of things that are mostly in season:

  • Handful of spinach (fresh from the Farmers’ Market)
  • 1 Easter egg, sliced
  • 2 strawberries, sliced
  • some boiled beets (left over from making pink Easter eggs, but you can use canned/pickled beets here)
  • feta cheese crumbles
  • chopped Canadian bacon (this would be a good use for leftover Easter Ham)

I also forgot to put in some green onions (also fresh from the Farmers’ Market) and some mushrooms.

For a dressing, I continued my quest to emulate the spinach salad dressing from Jack Stack BBQ in Kansas City. I got pretty close this time:

  • 1 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp simple syrup
  • pinch ground celery seed
  • pinch of salt


Cream of Mushroom Soup

Posted by: Site Administrator  :  Category: soup

So many “recipes” call for a can or two of mushroom soup. Here’s how to make a big batch to freeze so that you’re not a slave to the can opener. It tastes loads better, too.

Makes about 20 cups (equivalent to about a dozen cans of soup).

  • 2 pounds mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 bundle green onions, chopped
  • 1 stick (1/4 lb) butter

Saute the mushrooms and green onions together in as big a frying pan as you can find.

Meanwhile, in a large stock pot, make a cream base by melting the butter, frying the flour (a roux), and adding the liquid.

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 pint heavy cream (or half and half)
  • 2 quarts milk (whole or skim or anywhere in between, up to you!)

as the cream base is coming to a boil and thickening, add the mushrooms and onions, and season to taste with whatever combination of salt, garlic, or pepper that suits your fancy.

As the mixture comes to a boil, it will start thickening. If you’re just looking for soup, you can stop here. If you’re looking for a creamy sauce to use in other recipes, thicken it a little more with some cornstarch:

  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1/4 cup of water

Mix the two until they for a light slurry and then mix into the soup and let boil for a few more minutes.

From here, you can freeze or use it. 1.5 and 3-cup portions work well for recipes, roughly analogous to 1 or 2 cans of the stuff with the red label.

Whole Tweet Bread (aka, Basic Bread)

Posted by: Site Administrator  :  Category: breads

no, this isn’t a birdseed bread – the recipe is simple enough to be tweeted. It’s very versatile and can be used as pizza dough, pita, rolls, sandwich bread, you name it.

This bread is brought to you by the number 3.

3 Cups liquid (some combination of water and milk, lukewarm, under 105°F)

3 Tablespoons sugar (or other sweetener such as honey, maple syrup, or molasses. Don’t use zero-calorie sweeteners here, this is to feed the yeasties, not to sweeten the bread – that’s what jam is for)

3 teaspoons yeast (1 Tablespoon – if using packets, 1 packet is just under a tablespoon and will do fine)

Stir together in a mixing bowl and let sit for a few minutes for the yeast to activate.


3 teaspoons salt (1 Tablespoon)

3 Tablespoons oil (canola, olive, or butter, any one will do – use less if you want a crispier crust)

3 Cups bread flour or other high-gluten flour

3 Cups whole wheat flour (or other grains in any combination you desire. half WW/half rye works well too. You can also use 3 more cups of bread flour for plain ol’ white bread)

If using a stand mixer, combine together with a dough hook and knead on low speed for 15 minutes (3 times 5!)

If doing this by hand, stir the ingredients together and knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is nice and stretchy.

Shape into two (not 3!) loaves (or lots of rolls!) and put in loaf pan

Cover with a towel and rise in a warm spot for an hour (3 times 20!) – you can turn your oven on low (usually 170°F) until heated, then turn the oven off and put the loaves in there to rise.

Bake at 350°F for half an hour (3 times 10!). If rising in the oven, you can just leave them there and turn it on. Start the timer when you turn the oven on)


Pita: Divide the dough into 16 pieces and shape into balls, and let rise . Roll them out and bake them on a stone for a few minutes on each side.

Pizza Crust: Just like pita, only with different sized dough balls. Add sauce and toppings and bake at 500°F.

Rolls: Like pita, but skip the part where you make them flat.

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Honey Bread

Posted by: Andrea  :  Category: breads

2 cups boiling water

1 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup maple sugar (or other sugar)

1 tablespoon honey

1/4 cup butter

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon instant active dry yeast

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

combine water, oats, sugar, honey, butter, salt and cinnamon. Let cool to lukewarm. Add yeast and flours and mix.

Knead about 10 minutes by hand, 5-7 minutes by machine until dough is smooth and shiny.

Transfer to greased bowl, cover (not airtight) and allow rise for 1 hour.

Divide dough in half. Shape each half into loaf. Place in greased loaf pans.

Cover pans lightly and allow to rise about 1 hour.

Bake loaves in preheated 360 degree oven for 33 minutes. Remove from oven when golden brown. Allow to cool.